F1 racing is a fastest sport and every season sees the introduce regulation updates intended at achieving a range of dissimilar objectives. Although less extensive than the new rules brought into force for the 2009 season, this year’s revisions are just as exciting. On or after the ban on refuelling to the use of narrower front tyres, and from the taking away of KERS to the reorganized points system, there’s a lot to catch up on before the Bahrain Grand Prix gets underway next month. In a bid to analyze their impact, we take out the primary changes and detail their possible repercussion…
CHANGE – Refuelling ban in races
Sporting regulations, article 29.1
29.1 a) Refuelling is only permitted in the team’s designated garage area.
b) No car may be refuelled after it has left the pit lane for the first time whilst the pit exit is open for the race.
c) Fuel may not be added to nor removed from a car during a race.
IMPACT: By far the biggest change this year is the ban on refuelling during races for the first time since 1993. As the cars feature significantly larger fuel tanks, up from around 80 litres to something nearer 250, packaging the tanks efficiently has become a top priority for the teams, with wider rear bodywork and longer wheelbases much in evidence during pre-season testing. There will still be pit stops, as drivers need to use both tyre compounds during dry races, but they will be significantly quicker, with stops possibly lasting less than four seconds. The ban on refuelling will also impact race strategy. Cars will be much heavier and slower at the start of Grands Prix, which will influence tyre wear, and the lifespan of its drive train and brakes. Those teams running with more economical engines will benefit. To put it simply, the less fuel needed at the start – the faster the car. The drivers, meanwhile, will have to handle the change in weight distribution.
CHANGE – revised points scale
Sporting regulations, article 6.4
6.4 Points for both titles will be awarded at each Event according to the following scale :
1st : 25 points
2nd : 18 points
3rd : 15 points
4th : 12 points
5th : 10 points
6th : 8 points
7th : 6 points
8th : 4 points
9th : 2 points
10th : 1 point
IMPACT: With the grid expanding to 12 teams in 2010, the FIA have introduced a new points structure. In place of the previous system, which saw the top eight drivers scoring 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and one point respectively, the top ten finishers will score points. With more points on offer, the bigger field will be rewarded. Another hope is that the bigger difference between the points on offer for the winner and for second place will mean more reason for drivers to push for victory.
CHANGE – Minimum weight increased to 620 kg
Technical regulations, article 4.1/2
4.1 minimum weight: The weight of the car must not be less than 620 kg at all times during the Event.
4.2 Ballast: Ballast can be used provided it is secured in such a way that tools are required for its removal. It must be possible to fix seals if deemed necessary by the FIA technical delegate.
IMPACT: Raising the minimum weight of the car by 15 kg was initially prompted by the need to offset the disadvantage faced by taller (and therefore heavier) drivers in cars equipped with KERS. Although the teams have agreed they will no longer use KERS in 2010, the minimum weight is still increased. This means teams have greater freedom to play around with weight distribution.
CHANGE – Narrower front tyres
Technical regulations, article 12.4, wheel dimensions:
12.4.1 Complete wheel width must lie between 305 mm and 355 mm when fitted to the front of the car and between 365 mm and 380 mm when fitted to the rear.
12.4.2 Complete wheel diameter must not exceed 660 mm when fitted with dry-weather tyres or 670 mm when fitted with wet weather tyres.
IMPACT: When slicks returned in 2009, tyre size remained unchanged, which meant that in terms of contact area the fronts gained proportionally more grip than the rears. For 2010, this has been remedied and the front tyre width has been reduced from 270 mm to 245 mm. The smaller tyres will enable the cars to be better balanced from front to rear.
CHANGE – no wheel fairings
Technical regulations, article 12.8, wheel assembly
12.8 The only parts which may be physically attached to the wheel in addition to the tyre are surface treatments for appearance and protection, valves for filling and discharging the tyre, balance weights, drive pegs, tyre pressure and temperature monitoring devices and spacers on the inboard mounting face of identical specification on all wheels for the same axle.
IMPACT: In 2009, you didn’t have to look hard to notice the wheel rim covers, which become so commonplace up and down the pit lane. This season they have been banned. This means one less thing to go wrong when pit crews tackle the new speedy fuel-less pit stops and also (possibly) more overtaking, as the airflow behind a car will be less turbulent. Teams, however, will look elsewhere to recover the aero advantage of the rim covers.
CHANGE – wheel rim heaters banned
Sporting regulations, article 25.3, control of tyres
25.3 f) The only permitted type of tyre heating devices are blankets which use resistive heating elements. The heating elements may only act upon the outer tyre surface.
IMPACT: Although the use of tyre blankets is still allowed, the restriction on the inner heated core, which is used to heat the wheel rim, is set to make the warm-up of tyres much more important.
CHANGE – modified safety car rules
Sporting regulations, article 40.7
40.7 All competing cars must then reduce speed and form up in line behind the safety car no more than ten car lengths apart. In order to ensure that drivers reduce speed sufficiently, from the time at which the “SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED” message is shown on the timing monitors until the time that each car crosses the first safety car line for the first time, drivers must stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU. With the following exceptions, overtaking is forbidden until the cars reach the first safety car line after the safety car has returned to the pits. Overtaking will only be permitted under the following circumstances :
– if a car is signalled to do so from the safety car ;
– under 40.14 below ;
– any car entering the pits may pass another car or the safety car remaining on the track after it has crossed the first safety car line ;
– any car leaving the pits may be overtaken by another car on the track before it crosses the second safety car line ;
– when the safety car is returning to the pits it may be overtaken by cars on the track once it has crossed the first safety car line ;
– any car stopping in its designated garage area whilst the safety car is using the pit lane (see 40.10 below) may be overtaken ;
– if any car slows with an obvious problem.
IMPACT: – During a safety car period, backmarkers are no longer able to ‘unlap’ themselves whilst running behind the safety car. It’s hoped that this will shorten safety car periods and see quicker restarts during the 2010 season.
CHANGE – second additional engine penalty
Sporting regulations, article 28.4
28.4 a) Each driver may use no more than eight engines during a Championship season. Should a driver use more than eight engines he will drop ten places on the starting grid at the first Event during which each additional engine is used. If two such additional engines are used during a single Event the driver concerned will drop ten places on the starting grid at that Event and at the following Event.
IMPACT: Each driver is allowed to use no more than eight engines during a season. If he does use more than his permitted eight, he will drop 10 places on the starting grid of the event at which an additional unit is to be used. An extra caveat in 2010 is that if he uses a second additional engine during a race weekend he will be handed a 10-place grid penalty for the following event. This makes engine sustainability even more significant, particularly as the season’s close approaches.
CHANGE – reduction in on-track aero testing
Sporting regulations, article 22.1
22.1 a) iii) six one day aerodynamic tests carried out on FIA approved straight line or constant radius sites between 1 January 2010 and the end of the last Event of the Championship. Any of these days may be substituted for four hours of wind-on full scale wind tunnel testing to be carried out in a single twenty four hour period.
IMPACT: Since 2009, testing during the season has been banned, with the exception of a small number of straight-line aero tests. In 2010 the number of test days available has been further reduced from eight to six. This will mean teams will have to capitalise on their limited time on the track all the more, and could prompt more general testing to be conducted during Friday practice sessions before Grands Prix.
CHANGE – dry tyre availability
Sporting regulations, article 25.2/4
25.2, quantity of tyres: During the Event no driver may use more than eleven sets of dry-weather tyres (six of ‘prime’ specification and five of ‘option’ specification), four sets of intermediate tyres and three sets of wet-weather tyres.
25.4 Use of tyres :
a) Each nominated driver will be allocated three sets of dry-weather tyres for use during P1 and P2, two of “prime” specification and one of “option” specification. These are the only dry-weather tyres which may be used during these sessions.
One set of “prime” specification must be returned to the tyre supplier before the start of P2 and one set of each specification before the start of P3.
IMPACT: The number of dry tyres available to each driver has been decreased from 14 to 11 sets per weekend. In order to persuade teams to run more comprehensively during Friday practice sessions, one set of dry tyres must be returned before the start of Practice Two, and two sets before the start of Practice Three.
CHANGE – qualifying to race tyres for top ten
Sporting regulations, article 25.4
25.4 d) At the start of the race each car which took part in Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his grid time. This will only be necessary if dry-weather tyres were used to set the grid time and if dry-weather are used at the start of the race.
IMPACT: One of the more interesting changes to the tyre rules for 2010 is that any driver who participates in Q3 during Saturday qualifying must start the race on the same tyres he used to set his grid time. This will prompt a real brainteaser for team strategists, who will have to decide whether it’s worth qualifying on a softer (quicker)tyre, even though it may not serve the driver so well on a full fuel load at the start of the race.
CHANGE – testing for driver substitutes
Sporting regulations, article 22.1
22.1 c) No track testing may take place between the start of the week preceding the first Event of the Championship and 31 December of the same year with the following exception
If a team declares that one of its current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver who has not participated in an F1 race in the two previous calendar years, one day of track testing will be permitted between the start of the week preceding second Event and the last Event of the Championship. The following must be observed:
– Any such day may only be carried out by the new driver and may not take place on a circuit hosting a race in the current Championship year.
– Any such day may only take place within a period 14 days prior to the substitution and 14 days after the substitution has taken place.
– If a team, having declared the driver’s substitution and performed the test, does not then enter an Event with the new driver, the team will be penalised by a reduction of one day from the pre-season track testing days available in the following year.
IMPACT: Last season Jaime Alguersuari made his Formula One debut in the Toro Rosso having only previously driven an F1 car during a straight-line test. In effort to avoid this scenario again this year, the FIA have somewhat relaxed their in-season testing rules. So if a team declares that one of their current race drivers is to be substituted by a driver, who has not participated in an F1 race in the last two calendar years, one day of track testing will now be permitted. This will only be allowed if it takes place on an approved circuit not being used for a Grand Prix during the current season.